GEAR LIST ~ OUR SET UP

We’ve been stationary for a little while now due to dental issues and the never ending lockdown but it’s given us a chance to think about our cycling adventures; and how much we appreciate all the gear we have that makes our long treks possible and (to an extent) comfortable. We have just entered our fourth year of living on and travelling with our bicycles and have covered many thousands of kilometres. With the double whammy of the UK leaving the EU and covid-19 we have sadly seen how difficult it will be for us in the future to continue travelling in Europe as we do. With tentative plans of cycling through Northern Spain for Summer 2021 we will try to preserve our chosen lifestyle for as long as possible. With that being said, here are the things that we wouldn’t be without:

1. Sleeping bags.

We wouldn’t get very far without our sleeping bags. On cold nights we love to snuggle into our Enlightened Equipment custom-made down quilts. They are super warm, super light, strong, vividly coloured and the craftsmanship is beautiful. We splurged our hard earned cash (we spent a summer being ‘tent erectors’ and recycling promoters!) on these quilts because we wanted to make long-term investments for our ‘home’. However, we think it is equally possible to do long-term cycling adventures on a much smaller budget and we are strong advocates for budget and DIY travel. For a long time before we got these quilts we used equally good if not quite as warm or feather-light standard cocoon sleeping bags from Vango. The great thing about cycling adventures is that you can just go with equipment you already have or with very basic stuff because, for example, in the summer months you might not even need a tent, just a bivvy bag, you can use a very basic stove, cutlery and pot you might already have. The only thing you really need is a bicycle. The rest you can borrow, make, use what you have or find along the way. There’s no point in getting all the gear if you have no idea. Give it a go for a weekend first then see what you need.

2. Panniers.

When we first bought our second-hand bikes in Budapest, we were worried about how we would afford to buy panniers as well. We knew we had creative minds but still we trawled through a lot of biking websites looking at cheap panniers. We never felt good about buying panniers and didn’t really trust the cheap ones to stand the test of time. We designed so many weird and wonderful panniers and searched the bins every night in Hungary looking for materials but in the end, by chance, we found a huge empty plastic container and decided to cut the top off. We normally don’t feel so good, either, about ‘destroying’ perfectly good working ready made items but in this case it was justified. We did a few more searches for old, unused drums and suddenly we had a full set of panniers. Initially we used heavy wire to make clips which attached to our pannier racks but have since upgraded to flattened copper tubing. We love our panniers. They are strong, durable and because we made them ourselves it means we can also easily fix or amend them ourselves.

3. Our footwear (or lack of it!).

Teva sandals – Rose wears Teva sandals for most of the year. They are waterproof, very comfortable, durable, easy to clean, can be worn with socks (as there is no obstructive toe bar) on chilly evenings and are easy to get on and off. She hates wearing closed toe shoes that suffocate her feet so these are perfect. Plus the pair she has are made from recycled plastic bottles so that is definitely an added bonus.

Vivobarefoot boots – Albert is a barefoot enthusiast. He would prefer to be barefoot all year but this takes many years of practice to build up the foot bed and acclimatise to walking on snow/ice. He opted for a pair of Vivobarefoot hiking boots which are prefect for cold winter weather. As we are volunteers on varying projects which include building and farm work, these boots are therefore also perfect PPE and keep our hosts happy when working with dangerous machinery and unruly animals.

4. Our rainwear.
Rose has an Outdoor Research Aspire jacket. This a bit on the pricey side but I would say that a cheaper rain coat would work just as well but it really depends on how often you use it and what activities you are doing. This jacket feels like it will last a really long time. The fabric is heavy quality, very durable, breathable, light and super compact. It has handy side vents which are invaluable in hot heavy rain. If you did want to buy a really dependable, secure (the hems are reinforced and sealed with water resistant zippers!) and pretty jacket then I highly recommend this one.

Albert wears a basic Berghaus rain jacket. It’s no frills but has been very durable and extremely reliable. Over four years of decent wear and it’s still completely waterproof which is the main thing. My only regret with this jacket is that it’s all black, next time I would definitely want something with a bit more colour and vibrancy.

We both wear Berghaus waterproof trousers which are very affordable, simple and really do the job. Luckily, in the whole four years we’ve only been caught in two thunderstorms and had one full day of rainy cycling so our rainwear is little used. However, we would never risk not having it with us!

5. Our cookware.
When we started out we had an MSR WindBurner, with a 1.5litre pot. I do like this system and it was very quick boil and reliable. However it’s obviously geared towards boiling liquid and not really cooking so it did limit what we cooked whilst cycling, it was also not always easy to source the right gas, especially in the Balkans, as we realised after a full day of traipsing around Sarajevo desperately trying to find the right gas canister! On top of this it was quite a bulky item to fit into our panniers.

About a year and a half ago we decided to update our setup. We now have a much more versatile option, it’s basically a little fold up hexagonal fire pit made by Vargo. It burns small bits of wood so is usually easy to source fuel for it. Also you can put anything over it, within reason. We like to have an open campfire when it’s possible but this thing is just very handy to keep a small contained fire l plus it funnels the heat up towards the bottom of your pan. This thing also folds down very small so takes up no space in the bag. We also have a nice simple pot and lid from Solo Stove. I really like this pot. It’s solid and simple with multiple handle options. You can hang it easily from a tripod or similar or use the side handles. It’s just well designed and well built. And although it’s quite big you can fill the entire inside with things for transportation. We keep a lot of our cooking bits in here and food.

6. Our trusty tent.

We use a Vango Banshee 200 which Albert already owned before we left where we were living in England. It has really been through the ringer now and has a lot of visible wear and tear but we love it. It’s so easy to put up, has really stood the test of time and is our home. We’ve talked about getting a new tent but it would be hard to say goodbye to our trusted Banshee (also what a great name!), I think it will be going strong for a while yet. The only slight downside to this tent is that it’s not a freestanding design, this means you always need ground to anchor the guy ropes in, unlike a traditional dome design. This has only actually been a problem for us once when we had to camp next to a highway in Albania during a storm. The only place to pitch was on a big area of compacted gravel and there was no way of getting a peg in. We ended up holding the guys in place with some big rocks, not ideal but it worked! The tent was a sorry sight in the morning though.

7. Our found tin mugs.
We both have old tin mugs which we eat breakfast and dinner in. For breakfast we usually have overnight oats with nuts and seeds as well as any berries we’ve found the day before. For dinner we usually have soup with mung beans that have been soaked from the previous day along with cheese and/or salami stirred into the hot mess. They keep the food so hot that we can’t eat for ten minutes after the food is ready; so we are usually staring at our food forlornly or burning our tongues from lack of patience! Mine is one I found lying outside in Wales and Albert’s is an old Corica mug made in former Yugoslavia, we found it at a project in Croatia. We eat all our food in these with a homemade wood spoon for Albert and a broken Light My Fire travel spork for me (the two orange pieces in photo below).

8. Our energy supplies.

The battery pack we have is an Anker PowerCore 20100. We bought it before setting off nearly 4 years ago and it’s still doing its job, without any noticeable drop in battery life.

Our head-torch is another great item. It’s a Petzl Actik. We chose it because it can be charged via USB and therefore via our battery pack or solar panel. It’s a great little torch. Very bright and the battery lasts well.

The solar panel is a BigBlue 28W. This was a later addition to our gear. It’s been really useful though. Charges our phones very quickly. We even managed to charge up all our electrical items using it, before setting off on the bikes from a project in the south of Italy, when someone stole 5km of power lines and knocked out the electric to the whole area. For 6 weeks!!

9. Our Buffs.
We each have a Merino Wool Buff. These are great, warm and have a multitude of uses. Even during the covid pandemic initially we used them as mouth and nose coverings instead of buying masks. We often tie a knot in the bottom and use them as handy foraging bags. The fabric is a better material to carry forest finds like mushrooms as fungi can’t breathe in plastic as it becomes sweaty and flaccid. I sometimes use mine as a bicycle seat cover. We both use our buffs when we’re cycling in extreme cold or crazy wind, over our ears and under our helmets.

10. Our travel yoga mats.
We carry Manduka eKO travel yoga mats which are made from very thin, hard wearing rubber with great grip. Like the Buffs they are actually pretty multipurpose. They can be used as floor mats in the tent or folded up as padded seats when we eat if the ground is wet. They can fold or roll around other items (to provide cushioning) and are waterproof. In the beginning, we folded and then tied our yoga mats around our sleeping bags as a waterproof cover and then used them at night as our sleeping mats. They are also great as regular yoga mats 😉

11. Our gifted blue tarp.

We carry a very simple and cheap blue tarp which we were gifted by the old man, Josef, who owned the sheep farm we tended in Hungary. I don’t know if old Josef knew just how much use this tarp would end up getting. It’s an invaluable item in our set up. We use it to cover our bikes and equipment overnight, it keeps them dry but also doubles as a security system. Using the eyelets to secure it in multiple places means that in order to get to our bikes or stuff you have to make quite some racket. So far it’s only warned us of wild animals. The tarp is also great as a ground covering in the wet and can make a great shelter too. I actually use it as a rain cover for one of my panniers whilst cycling as well. Thank you Josef!

Want to support us?
If you feel inspired by our journey we would love if you could share our blog or a particular post on social media, follow us on Instagram @the_fat_earth. Or you can support us by donating via GoFundMe here.

We would also be happy to hear from you, so get in touch with ideas, communities, places, people or in solidarity with the small change we are trying to make in an uncertain world.

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